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Redskins Roundtable: The Beginning

Jack AndersonSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2009

SEATTLE - JANUARY 05:  Wide receiver Santana Moss #89 of the Washington Redskins scores a touchdown on a 30-yard pass as teammates (L) Antwaan Randle El #82 and running back (R) Clinton Portis #26 celebrate with him in the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks during the NFC Wild Card game at Qwest Field on January 5, 2008 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Hey, hey, hey! Fat Albert Haynesworth and the rest of the Washington Redskins are back for the 2009 NFL season.

To commemorate the start of what we in the 'Skins community hope will be a "Super" run in 2009, we give you the Redskins Roundtable.

Every week, four writers from the Redskins community will each answer a question regarding the team, how things stand, or the upcoming match-up for the week.

The questions are prepared by yours truly so if any writer ('Skins or otherwise) wants in, feel free to shoot me a message. I am open to hearing opinions from all comers especially from writers within the division.

The first edition of Redskins Roundtable is a sort of a test run. I will be answering one of the questions. The other three will be answered by new members to RR: Dan Stalcup, Dan Yoke, and JW Nix.

So without further ado, I give you the Redskins Roundtable!

Question 1: What are the three biggest position battles that will begin in training camp? (Dan Stalcup)

1. Right tackle—Easily the most important position battle. Most believe Stephon Heyer has the inside track to the starting job, but Mike Williams is the sleeper in this race. He's lost weight, in shape, and ready to work. His first few days of training camp have been a bit disappointing, though.

2. Wide receiver—I think this is the make-or-break year for second-year players Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas. Both have great potential, particularly Devin Thomas, who I think will emerge as the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver on the team after Santana Moss and maybe Antwaan Randle-El.

3. Nickel back—Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall seem pegged to be starters. Rogers is one of the better coverage corners in the league, but doesn't rack up interceptions so often gets underrated. Hall just signed a huge contract, so it'd be strange for him not to be on the field most snaps.

After that, the scenario is unclear. Who will play nickel? Veteran Fred Smoot boasts the most experience, but there are several rookies and second-year players who could make some noise: Kevin Barnes, Justin Tryon, and Byron Westbrook chief among them.

Beyond those three battles, other important ones will be defensive end and linebacker. Those are especially murky since nobody's sure how draftee Brian Orakpo will contribute to the team (Update: Orakpo has been adapting very well to the pro game at both positions).

Safety could be interesting, with Reed Doughty and overachiever Chris Horton battling for time.

Question 2: Who will be the three most important players to watch in training camp? (Dan Yoke)

  • There are many interesting camp battles during training camp, but I am choosing to follow the progress of three players who will make or break our team this year.

  • 1. Stephon Heyer. Heyer is stepping in to fill the void at tackle left by Jon Jansen. I will be watching with interest to see how well he fills those shoes.

    Heyer played well in relief in 2007, but was injured and benched last year. The Redskins have put their eggs in Stephon’s basket by releasing Jansen, so it’s up to him to prove that they made the right decision.

  • Offensive line play will go a long way to determining how well the Redskins do this year.

    2. Devin Thomas. Everyone knows Santana is the man. Everyone knows that Chris Cooley is a threat. But depth at receiver is the Redskins’ major concern entering training camp.

    They sought to fix that problem by drafting Thomas and Malcolm Kelly last year. So far, their contribution has been minimal. If Thomas can realize his potential, the Redskins will have a much more potent offense. Hamstring issues have been a concern so far, but there is still time for this second year receiver to make an impact.

    3. Jason Campbell. I seriously considered other players for my third spot, but Campbell intrigues me the most. The offseason drama, the contract year, the make or break moment in a young QB’s career. How will he respond? I will be anxious to find out in camp.

    Question 3: What are the weakest positions on the team, and how can the weaknesses be overcome? (Jack Anderson)

    The entire offensive line has been battling injuries and ineffectiveness throughout camp. It's beginning to become clear that if the line can’t bring it together, the offensive will have little chance to be successful.

    There are several younger players who might make an impact. Will Montgomery has impressed along the interior line while Chad Rinehart is hoping to make himself the dominating guard he was in college.

    These guys and others will need to get up to speed quickly as the starters are already dealing with age and injuries.

    Another weakness is the QB position. Jason Campbell has yet to impress in his career and will need to take chances in order to jumpstart this offense.

    Should the offensive line fail to hold up, Campbell will have little chance to make his mark. Still, he must make the most of any situation if he wants remain a starting QB in the NFL.

    His weapons are beginning to emerge. Fred Davis and the two rookie WRs are improving while the old cast of Moss, Portis, and Cooley will likely continue to provide offense.

    The pieces are there; it’s just a matter of getting the ball to them. That is Campbell’s job.

    Finally, we come to kicker. Shaun Suisham has left much to be desired, missing key field goals in several games last year. He finished last among regular kickers in field goal percentage last year.

    His competition in camp has been Dave Rayner, but neither has a good resume.

    The ‘Skins will have to pray for a miracle if they want consistent kicking this year because neither of these guys appear able to deliver on that.

    Question 4: As camp opens what should the expectations be like entering the 2009 season considering how the team stacks up on paper? (JW Nix)

Expectations are mixed for a team rebuilding, yet chock full of players from the Joe Gibbs era. The veterans certainly want to win now, but there is a question as to if they fit the West Coast scheme Zorn is trying to install.

For a team built on the running game as a strength, the offensive line has yet to remain a whole unit for a full season yet. The same can be said for Clinton Portis, who is nearing his end.

The wide receivers are a mix ranging from underwhelming to underachieving. Other than Chris Cooley, there is no reliable weapon on the offense.

The defense looks strong up to ten players, but you have to field 11. It is a gamble to see if Brian Orakpo can man the SLB job, and the depth at linebacker is virtually none.

The team has the talent to go far. They have the ability to control the line of scrimmage, as well as the game clock.

Anything can happen in the NFC East, and usually the victor is beat up by season's end.

Still, the Redskins seem destined to battle to maintain a .500 record if the past issues continue to reappear.

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